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The EPL Winter Break Debate Rolls On

Once again, the EPL is going through one of its regular spasms, concluding that something is wrong with the game – well, nothing’s perfect –  and then busily choosing to blame the wrong thing.

Does The Premier League Need A Winter Break?

dave bowler logo for epl articleBy Dave Bowler

Apparently, it’s the FA Cup – a competition that doesn’t come into play for the top flight until the start of January and can be over just as fast – that’s to blame. Too many games (yawn) too much strain put on players –  despite 25 man squads, not enough time off – don’t spend pre-season jetting off to Hong Kong, Australian or California then.

The FA Cup fifth round is set to be played entirely in midweek and with no replays in order to make way for a two week winter break that kicks in prior to the return of European football.

Right. So it isn’t for the good of the game after all. It’s for the good of, at most, half a dozen football clubs, who already have every possible advantage given to them anyway. Because poor old Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, life for them is so tough isn’t it? Down to their last few hundred million to chuck away on footballers they then decide not to play, it must be agonising.

If it ain’t broke..don’t winter break it

What will be created apparently is a minimum 13 day break for all clubs. Of course, if you went out of the cup already, you get even longer. Just like you’ll have had a blank weekend over fourth round day.

How much time off do they need? How hacked off will fans of such clubs be without any football to watch? They’ll have to find other things to do with Saturday afternoons – and once they have, luring them back is rarely easy.

How much more hacked off will they be when it means watching more midweek football in the depths of winter, something that is becoming less and less popular with each year? For a start off, how many kids will be able to see fifth round FA Cup football given it will take place on a school night?

This is, in part, due to the absurd adherence to the ‘Matchday’ concept, where everybody has to play their games at the same time so nobody has games in hand. This would have some point if we all played at the same time, but we don’t, yet there seems to be no complaints that a team might gain a competitive advantage by playing earlier or later than others does there? Why not? Oh, because they get paid for it.

Scheduling A Solution

Why can’t we schedule full fixture lists for midweeks in August and September when the weather is better, or for October and November to run alongside the later stages of the League Cup?

And if some teams are playing Europa League qualifiers, then they’ll just have to catch up somewhere along the way later in the season and maybe even employ some of the footballers they stockpile just to prevent the rest of the division getting their hands on them and making the playing field a bit more equal.

Beyond that, let’s ask ourselves just how they all use these 13 days off. Will they let the players put their feet up for a fortnight? Or will Daniel Levy, Ed Woodward and their ilk be filling that gap with a lucrative hop to Shanghai or Dubai to play a friendly or two? I think we all know the answer to that.

FA Surrenders To Premier League Scheduling

The fact of the matter is that life in the Premier League is increasingly like being in an abusive relationship where 14 clubs get the living daylights knocked out of them because, they’re told, ‘You’d be nothing without us’.

Given they all sign up to the Premier League, you could argue they know what they’re getting into. But when the Football Association meekly dons the gimp mask and braces itself for another session in the dungeon, hasn’t it all gone a bit too far?

The FA is supposed to be the guardian of the game, while its competition has, for nearly 150 years, been the jewel in the domestic crown. Time to stop this supine surrender to the Premier League. If Chelsea, Arsenal and company don’t like the existing rules of the game, the remedy is not to allow them to remake them to suit their agenda and make it easier for them to win it.

The best answer is simple. Tell them to just bugger off. Don’t enter if it’s such a trial. Leave the FA Cup to those who care and who are willing to take it on, however tough that is. And then the big six can try explaining that to their supporters who still think that a day out at Wembley is a pretty big deal. All the best with that.

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